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Assignment and Study Help

Assignment and library skills

Preparing for exams

Exams allow you to demonstrate your understanding of course content and materials, and apply that understanding to different problems and scenarios.

Don’t just plan to remember theory!

Content and structure:

  • Check your course outline
  • Check any online exam information
  • Attend review sessions given by your teacher – ask questions!
  • Total course materials or only second half?
  • What kind of questions – essay, multiple choice, short answer, paragraphs?

Ensure you know:

  • Time – start time, reading time, end time
  • Date – when, where, room/venue
  • Rules – are dictionaries/calculators allowed, etc.?

Besides your notes and workbooks, consider other materials:

  • Course outline and study guide – What are the key learning outcomes for the course? Are there clues as to what is important to take away from the course?
  • Any extra resource materials, e.g., lecture slides, activities, quizzes, journal articles, or additional readings and resources available on Connect
  • Essential textbook/s or extra books available online or via library – course textbook, or are there useful books in the library? Most textbooks have review questions at the end of each chapter
  • Your teacher – have they planned any revision classes or handouts? Have they provided past exam papers? Have they indicated which parts of the course will be on the exam?
  • Classmates – find a study buddy! Discuss course materials and compare notes

Regular revision – plan mini revisions every few weeks throughout the semester in addition to any revision done in class or before exams

  • Organise your time – plan a study schedule and stick to it – don’t cram!
  • Use a template – organise notes by using a template to re-word notes and summarise the meaning of notes from lessons. This helps you think about the meaning of your notes
  • Highlight, underline or colour-code – use sparingly. Identify keywords and terms. Don’t highlight large slabs of writing as this can be overwhelming later. Colour-code topics to show the difference
  • Concept mapping or mind mapping – convert written notes into a concept or mind map. This can help you keep track of relationships between ideas
  • Organise topics – organise notes into sections or topics to focus on one area at a time
  • Write questions on the topic – consider your understanding of a topic by writing questions about the topics found in your notes and resources
  • Test yourself using questions and study guides – use end-of-chapter textbook questions and/or study guide or workbook questions to focus your revision and practice answering questions
  • Past exam papers – if available, complete these. They can indicate questions that may be asked, and topic areas that have been considered important previously
  • Get a study buddy or a group of classmates – study with a reliable friend or classmates. Discuss course materials, and test each other on topics from your notes
  • Plan an essay on the topics from your course. You may need to write multiple plans in preparation. This will help you think about what to write and how to structure your essay (see TEAS and DADA models and Essay and paragraphs tabs in Day of the exam section below).
  • Analyse scenarios – practice problem-solving skills by reading scenarios relevant to your course. Find solutions by using theories and knowledge from your course

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"Female student holding library books" by CollegeDegrees360 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you are have difficulty with exams, here are some common problems and solutions to help:

Problem Solution
Running out of time
  • Always read through the exam before you start writing
  • Write time frames against each question and stick to these
  • Plan out an essay so you know the topics to be discussed
  • Mark difficult questions and leave for later if unsure

Not answering the question

  • Read the question and underline keywords. Make notes as you go

Ignoring keywords

  • Always re-read the question and your answer to check you’ve answered all parts

Not answering all parts of a question

  • Tick off the questions as you answer them

Not giving enough information

  • Make notes at the beginning of the exam, re-read your answer and add extra points

Not demonstrating what you know and how well you know it

  • Always plan an essay or paragraph before writing so you cover all necessary points
  • Exercise relieves stress (meditation, yoga, sports)
  • Chat to a friend
  • Do a reasonable amount of study, but go to bed at a reasonable time
  • Avoid excessive coffee or stimulants
  • Pack the equipment you need for the exam

Day of the exam

Important tips:

  • Eat breakfast – your brain won’t work well on an empty stomach
  • Avoid excessive coffee or stimulants
  • Arrive at least 30 minutes early with all your exam equipment
  • If your friends are nervous, avoid them!
  • Find a calm, quiet spot for some last minute revision or some deep breathing if it helps calm you
  • Attend the exam on the correct day and time

In the settling-in time:

  • Make yourself comfortable
  • Make sure your watch has the same time as the exam clock
  • Place your exam equipment where you can reach it
  • Fill in your student details on the examination answer booklet or paper

Before the exam starts (or in reading time):

  • Listen to exam supervisor’s instructions
  • Start reading the examination paper when allowed
  • Read instructions very carefully
  • If allowed, make notes on rough paper
  • Create a time plan for how to use the exam time wisely
  • Highlight keywords and instruction words in questions
  • Make notes or create an outline of key points you want to make for longer answers
  • Decide on the order you plan to answer the questions

Have a plan for reading time:

  • Read the instructions carefully and thoroughly. Take 10 minutes to do this even if reading time isn’t given – make a plan for your time!
  • Read the questions and decide an order to answer them. You don’t have to go in order!
  • Choose the questions you are going to answer if you have a choice
  • Decide on the first question you will tackle
  • Write notes to remind you of your thoughts on that question later in the exam, if writing in the reading time is allowed, or at the start of the writing period if it isn’t allowed in reading time

Fear comes from:

  • Not knowing what will be in the exam
  • Questioning your ability
  • Having goals or expectations that are too high

How to overcome fear:

  • Be thoroughly prepared and organised
  • Know what is in the exam
  • Understand your essential course content/objectives
  • Be happy and satisfied that you have tried your best

Note: a little stress can improve performance

Multiple choice questions

  • Always answer these! You can usually narrow down to two choices. If you don’t know, guess – you have a 50/50 chance of being correct, but blank answers will be marked wrong
  • Where possible, think of your answer before looking at the choices
  • Watch out for trick words such as: most, some, all, always, and never
  • Watch out for tricks like swapping words such as: increase and decrease, or supply and demand
  • Watch out for negative questions: not, none, and never

Short answer questions

  • Keywords mean getting your terminology right. Do you have a lot of jargon in your course? You may need to memorise some keywords and terms
  • Answer to the point, but explain and define – use TEAS or DADA models (see TAB)
  • Show knowledge and understanding! Apply these to the question facts/case study
  • Circle the keywords and relevant information in the questions and underline the instruction word (e.g., discuss, analyse, compare, contrast, explain)

All types of questions

  • Don’t let time pressure force you into misreading a question. Read carefully and underline or highlight keywords

At the start of the writing time

  • Write down any information or formula that you may have trouble remembering
  • Write notes as they come to you. It’s good to show your ideas and working – don’t erase this!
  • Begin with the most important questions (allocated the most marks)
  • Reword the question in your own words to help you understand it
  • Work out how many minutes you should spend on each response or section of the exam. Figure out where the most marks may be given and plan time accordingly
  • When you get to your time limit, move to the next question or section
  • If you have memory block, move to the next question and come back
  • Running out of time? Start using bullet points – get your main ideas down, even if you don’t have time to elaborate. Part marks are often awarded for keywords, definitions, and explanations
  • Leave 10 minutes at the end for checking and editing answers you want to add to or double-check

Establish a clear argument before you start writing. Use scrap paper to make a rough outline for longer answers. It’s often easier to write the body of your answer and add the introduction later, so leave 5-6 lines for your introduction.

Drawing a mind map or flow chart of your answer can also help. See an infographic example here by choosing the Planning your assignment - flowchart PDF. 

TEAS or DADA models  can help ensure you include everything required.

General tips:

Use the first sentence and paragraph to state your answer and how the question will be addressed

Use diagrams or graphs if appropriate

Remember to have a basic introduction, body and conclusion on essay-style answers. The body can follow TEAS or DADA

Short answer paragraphs can go straight into the explanation – TEAS or DADA models can help ensure you include all the required information

Write an introduction after the body of your answer – leave blank 5-6 lines at the start to write the introduction later

TEAS model

  • Theory – name the theory, define/ explain key terms to show your knowledge

    Example – provide one from textbook or own ideas to show your understanding

    Analysis/Application – apply above knowledge and understanding to directly answer the question (longest part of your answer)

    Summary – give conclusions and/or recommendations, if required

DADA model

  • Define – define the theory, keywords/terms that relate to your answer, e.g., medical/technical words

    Asumptions – list any assumptions e.g. all things being equal, underlying conditions, etc.

    Diagram – draw a diagram, graph, chart, or process flow to help answer the question

    Analysis – use the above theory and diagram to directly answer the question

 Write down what you did right or wrong

  • Which answers did you get right? Why?
  • Which answers did you get wrong? Why?
  • How can you stop these problems from happening next time?
  • Was the problem due to a bad habit or a difficult topic/module?
  • Was there anything you were confused about? Check on this


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